A Ritual to Elevate the Troubled Dead
Ancestor elevation is a sacred practice that is done to help the soul of a dead family member who was troubled or angry or depressed in life, perhaps doing harmful things to themselves or others, perhaps never able to live a happy life due to their own inner demons. By doing this, we aid their souls in finding peace. It is an act of mercy, and can also be an act of emotional freedom for the living, especially if their own lives were negatively affected by that individual when they were alive. It is ironically a lot easier to do this work for someone after they are dead. Unlike the act of simply wiping them from one’s life, this practice actually helps the problem at its root.
Begin by laying an altar on the floor. This is done in part because the ancestors are our roots, and in part because during the course of this nine day ritual, we will symbolically be raising the altar and thus lifting our ancestor up. Be sure to place this somewhere where it can remain out for nine consecutive days. If you have pets, that’s OK. It’s not going to harm anything to have them drinking out of offering glasses.
The altar should be white: white cloth, flowers, candles. Culturally for us, this color still speaks of faith, purity, and spiritual cleanliness. In doing an elevation for a particular ancestor, we are engaging in ancestral healing, in cleansing a tiny bit of mess, blockage, pain, strain, hurt from that particular line. White, representing cleanliness to us, is a good color to use for this.
Set up a picture of the dead person you wish to elevate centrally on the altar. (If you don't have a photo, write their name on a piece of white paper in your best handwriting.) It should be noted that an elevation can be done for a beloved ancestor just because you love that ancestor and want the best for him or her. While they are usually done in the case of troubled, aggressive, unhappy, unhealthy ancestors or conditions, they don’t need to be reserved only for those cases. The only pre-requisite to doing an elevation is that you must already have a primary ancestral altar and an engaged ancestral practice.
Put out flowers. Prepare a candle, a glass of good, clean, fresh water, incense, and whatever other offerings you wish to make.
When you are ready to begin your ritual, set a candle at each of the four corners of the altar and light them, offering a prayer that fire will cleanse and consecrate this space, making it sacred, making it a place where clear communication may occur between you, the ancestors, and the Holy Powers. Call upon any God or Goddess Whose help you might wish in this endeavor. Ancestral work is a very personal thing. It not only involves us and our spiritual connections but specific ancestors and their spiritual connections. Regardless of the fact that we are Heathen, Norse Pagan, or Northern Tradition, etc. we may find ourselves called to put representations of Deities our ancestors honored on the altar, or to call upon Them. This is not about us. If you have a grandmother who had a close connection to the Virgin Mary, and in the course of an elevation, you get a sense that you should put an image of the Virgin on the altar, I’d suggest doing it because really, who is better positioned to help elevate that grandmother than the God or Goddess who Whom she prayed her entire life? Get over yourselves, people.
Sit in front of the altar (on the floor) and call to the ancestor you are elevating. Light incense, and the main ancestral candle. Begin by offering the following two prayers on behalf of this ancestor (these are the ones I commonly use, but feel free to use others if you wish):
Hail to the Gods and Goddesses.
Your grace illumines all things.
Your gifts shine forth,
Making fruitful nine mighty worlds.
Blessed are those that serve You.
Blessed are those that seek You out.
Holy Powers, Makers of all things,
Bless and protect us in Your mercy.
Lead us along the twisting pathways of our wyrd
And when it is time, guide us safely along the Hel-road.
(This prayer was originally written by Fuensanta Arismendi for the Gods she loved above all others, Loki and Sigyn, but you can readily adapt it to your own devotional connections)
My Lord and My Lady, my Beloved
May those you call always hear Your voice.
May I always love You beyond trust and mistrust.
May my surrender be complete and voluntary.
Give me this day the grace of Your presence.
When I fail You of Your kindness,
Permit me to make amends.
Use me and teach me according to Your will,
And deliver me from all complacency.
Call directly to the ancestor you are elevating and say:
Oh clement and merciful Gods,
Magnificent Holy Powers hear my prayer.
I offer these prayers for the soul of X,
And for all good spirits who wish our prayers and recognition.
Please let X know that someone here on Midgard
Is stepping forth to speak for him/her.
Merciful Holy Powers,
And all other good spirits and ancestors
Who might intercede for the relief of this soul:
Grant him/her hope.
Grant him/her the awareness
That he/she is illuminated by the Divine light,
That he/she is younger kin to the Gods,
Beloved of the Holy Powers.
Let him/her see those tangles in the wyrd,
Those hurts and imperfections
Which keep him/her away from peaceful tenure in the realms of Hel,
From rebirth, from renewal.
Open his/her heart to understanding,
Grieving, repentance and restoration.
Let him/her understand that by his/her own efforts
He/she can make the time of his/her testing easier.
Wyrd unfolds always, and living or dead
The power to weave it well is in our hands.
May the Holy Powers and other helpful ancestors
Give him/her the strength to persevere in all good resolution,
To meet the tests of his/her wyrd rightly and well.
May these benevolent and loving words
Mitigate and soothe his/her pain.
May they give him/her a demonstration
That someone in Midgard acknowledges, remembers
And takes part in his/her sorrows.
May X know that we wish him/her happiness.
At this point, offer the glass of water to X. Put X’s picture and the glass of water on a book (cover it with a pretty cloth so it’s aesthetically pleasing). Remain meditating and praying for as long as you wish. When you are ready to end the ritual, you may leave the candle to burn for a bit, or blow it out. Thank the elemental power of fire for holding and consecrating the space as you blow out the four corner candles. Thank the Gods and ancestors and then your ritual is over.
Repeat this for nine consecutive nights. Each night, clean, fresh water should be offered and the water and picture lifted by the addition of a new book. After the ninth day, the picture and offering glass of water can be placed on top of the main ancestral altar.
A few caveats: if the candle or the glass breaks, you should do three things:
- Start the entire elevation over.
- Call upon your disir, and other strong and protective ancestors to guide and watch over the ritual.
- Put pieces of camphor in the water. (in traditional folk magic, and in spiritualism from which the concept elevations originally evolved, camphor is protective. It keeps destructive spirits away). If you want to use a more traditional northern herb, sprinkle dried Agrimony.
If the altar is very active, change the camphor or Agrimony every day and do not use the candle. Usually your strongest ancestors will come forward to help with the elevations anyway.
I have found that the dead like to be remembered with food, drink, offerings but also with music. It would not be inappropriate to offer music during this ritual. At the end of the whole thing, when the elevation is complete, it is always good to make an offering to all your ancestors, and to make an offering to the Gods upon whom you called for help.
You may do elevations for the same ancestor multiple times. It does not hurt. In fact, with particularly damaged or angry ancestors, or tangled wyrd, you may have to. It’s not a bad gift to give a beloved and healthy ancestor, though.